From “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products” by Leander Kahney:
“As for aesthetics, there were influences, but the Tangerine group never clung to a style for its own sake. “It was important for all of us, including Jony, that we were designing things for a reason,” said Grinyer.”
“Jony was interested in getting things right and fit for a purpose. He was completely interested in humanizing technology. What something should be was always the starting point for his designs. He had the ability to remove, or ignore, how any product currently is, or how an engineer might say it must be. He could go back to basics on any product design, or user interface design. And we all shared this similar philosophy at Tangerine. It was not so much due to our formal design education, but more a reaction to seeing the ways that other people were designing.”
Sometimes it’s too early to develop your own style. Sometimes you definitely don’t want to use someone else’s style. The important thing is learning to be deliberate with the style you’re using.
- Paul Kunkel, author of AppleDesign, described Ive as a chameleon: During his agency days at Tangerine, he was not trying to exert or develop his own design signature.
- Ali Abdaal starts and stops with titles (for when you do want to have your own style): He’s said that one technique he’ll use when researching for video ideas is to look at titles of popular videos. He’ll try to think of how he can do a slight twist on the title and do his own video without watching the video itself. That way he’s keeping his own style in place.
- Elon Musk starts with first principles: If you’re coming into an established industry, say space or car manufacturing, there are some constraints that might exist for reasons other than physics. Musk has talked about how he starts with first principles: what order of atoms would provide the optimal result? Ok, now what are the limits to getting there? They might be legal, expenses, material, etc. But if it’s possible with physics, there might be a way.
- David Perell provides a sequence: imitate then innovate: First you follow trends, then you’re aware but avoid them, then you can set them.
Perell points to our fear of plagiarism:
The problem is that our tormented fear of plagiarism has clenched its claws around the things that are actually good for you. Out of excessive trepidation, we’ve lost touch with the subtle, but important distinction between stealing other people’s work without giving them credit (which is obviously a bad thing) and mirroring the style or values of a writer you admire (which should be praised and promoted).
Learn to apply elements of other people’s styles into your own work. Do it over and over. More elements, more people. Do it over and over and over and over.
Now you’ve got your own.